Fulton County: Architecture Bad. Wasting Money Good.

Today the Fulton County Commission will vote on the recommendation from the Library Board of Trustees to vacate the Main Library (the one in Downtown Atlanta) and replace it with a huge building and a parking deck someplace else. Let’s set aside the fact that the library building they want to abandon is by a famous architect – Marcel Breuer.

Let’s also ignore that this building in particular is world-renowned, featured in magazines and design blogs, and visited by lovers of design. It needs a refurbishment, but what it doesn’t need is to be torn down and replaced by a building of the exact same size or smaller. That would deprive the County of its main library for years, involve many more millions of dollars for land acquisition and construction. And it’s completely unnecessary. If you are a Fulton County resident, consider finding your commissioner on this list and sending an email. Or you could just quietly lament the loss of an irreplaceable building and a waste of money.

Why Gov. Deal Must Veto Campus Carry

It’s not for the reason you think.

You may think that he should veto it because you are in favor of gun-free zones on college campuses. (There is evidence that shows they are safer than surrounding communities and that college students are much more likely to be victims of crime off-campus than on).

Perhaps you feel that guns on campus are ok, but you are concerned about the lack of exceptions for administrative offices and disciplinary hearings. It’s true those hearings can be emotionally fraught and we know that the brains of college students do not deal with stress well. Keeping guns out of those situations might be good policy.

It could be you think the college students are ready to interact with guns, but the high school and younger students that go to classes on these campuses aren’t yet ready for the responsibility.

Or maybe you are ok with guns on campus in general, and with having guns in disciplinary meetings, but you think all of the pre-schools and day care centers on college campuses shouldn’t be forced to allow guns on campus.

Or maybe it is that almost every campus police chief and school president in Georgia is against the idea, and you think we should respect the opinion of those who know the situation best.

All of those are good reasons to veto campus carry, but that’s not why Governor Deal must veto.

It is because when a Governor is in his last term, he cannot back down from a veto threat. As reported in the AJC, the Governor sent hand-written notes to both the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor with the language he would need included in a bill for guns to be allowed on campus. Both were understandable reluctant to revisit the issue, as the Governor’s letter arrived after the passage of the bill. That’s, of course, because many of these objections were not raised until the final debate on the Senate floor in attempted amendments by Senator Elena Parent, among others.

Should Governor Deal decide to allow Campus Carry to become law, it will embolden legislators to ignore future statements about spending legislation. That is especially concerning given the big plans he has to reform education planned for next session.

So instead of risking his ability to influence legislation, he can veto this bill and ask that the changes he requested be made, a form of amendatory veto. Tom Wolf and Robert Bentley backed down and now have diminished ability to improve legislation. It is unlikely that Governor Deal will invite a reduction of that authority.

Has UGA been given a heads up on Gov’s Campus Carry Intentions?

While Georgia, including the 80% that thought Campus Carry was a bad idea (even before the Day Care issue was raised), waits breathlessly to see whether Governor Deal will veto the Campus Carry bill, others are planning for passage.

Or have they been given a heads up by the Governor’s Office that he’ll sign it into law? Check out this screenshot below from the Orientation section of the Class of 2020 part of the UGA website. It’s on what incoming freshmen should do to get ready for school. #5 is interesting…

uga screen capute

Too small to read? Here’s #5 blown up.

Capture 5

Good advice? Discuss below.


DeKalb DA Disclosure Raises Some Eyebrows

There is a Democratic primary for District Attorney in DeKalb County, pitting the incumbent Robert James against the current county solicitor Sherry Boston.

First, Richard Hyde – of Mike Bowers/Richard Hyde fame investigating the County – contributed to Robert’s campaign in the middle of the DeKalb investigation (Robert was the focus of part of the investigation).
See disclosure here:

hyde line robert james

Bowers/Hyde report was issued on September 30, 2015, which is two months after this contribution was made.

So while the District Attorney (among others) was being investigated by Hyde, he solicited (presumably), was given, and accepted, a contribution from the investigator. That’s odd at best.

Second, Chris Chestnut contributed to Robert’s campaign 8 days after Robert indicted a police officer for killing Anthony Hill (the naked veteran who the police officer allegedly killed).  Chestnut represents Hill’s estate (or family).  So, 8 days after an indictment, the attorney for the victim’s family makes a contribution to the DA who brought the charges . . .

Here is the Chris Chestnut contribution

chestnut disclosure robert james

Robert James indicted Officer Robert Olson on 1/21.

This contribution was made 8 days later.

And this is why you read disclosures. All kinds of fun stuff in there. They are like a Selena Montgomery novel.


Rainy Day Fund to be Drained?

All in the name of slightly lower income taxes. On the floor today in your Georgia Senate (which no less an authority than Kirby Smart called the better looking of the two chambers) there will be a vote on Senate Resolution 756. It is a Constitutional Amendment that would cap the state budget at $23.6 billion in 2018 and 2019 and $24.2 billion from 2020 onward. If the reserve account is at least 8% of the prior budget and revenues exceed the cap, the income tax would automatically be lowered 0.1%/year. Appropriations in excess of the cap would require a separate appropriations bill passed by a 3/5 vote, if the income tax isn’t otherwise offset.

I suppose if the Georgia legislature were a bunch of free-spending miscreants, this could help rein them in. But we have among the lowest budgets per capita in the country and our income tax rates are capped at a low rate. That last move caused us trouble with the people at Moody’s who set our bond rates. The ironic part about that is Moody’s determines how much the state has to pay when it borrows money, so lowering tax rates can actually cost the taxpayers more money. Counterintuitive, no?

This move also carries that threat. A decrease in the bond rating for the state would be costly and produce a drag on every project and multi-year initiative. So even if the conditions precedent never occur and there is never an offset (and you ignore the problems with the Rainy Day Fund), it may cost taxpayers money as soon as it’s passed. Continue reading “Rainy Day Fund to be Drained?”

Senators McKoon and Fort call for an apology and a resignation

Senator Josh McKoon went to the well in the Georgia Senate this morning with the purpose to draw attention to the exchange he had with the Speaker’s Counsel Terry Chastain following Thursday’s session.

Per McKoon, “The Counsel for the Speaker of the House just used some language to describe me that I cannot post here because of its profane nature. He informed me if I wantto [criticize] House bills that I should run for the House. Evidently in addition to refusing to defend the free exercise of Georgians, if he could have it his way he would take away my right of free speech. ‪#‎gapol‬ ‪#‎gasen‬ ‪#‎rfra‬“

In the well this morning, Senator McKoon issued his response. He asked for an apology to the Senate and the resignation of the Speaker’s Counsel. He was supported in this by Democratic Senator Vincent Fort. Sen. McKoon, you may recall, went to the well to defend Fort against the recriminations of Representative Tommie Benton earlier in the session.

Tommy Benton Equates Vincent Fort to ISIS

Senator Vincent Fort has introduced a bill that would prevent the State of Georgia from celebrating holidays that honor the Confederate States of America. This is a debate that we can have in Georgia, but Rep. Benton’s response does not indicate that a thoughtful, high-minded exchange of ideas will be forthcoming.

“That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments,” said Benton, according to the AJC. I am not sure that’s exactly the same thing, but here we are.

The context for this bill and the heated rhetoric is the controversy involving Stone Mountain, and its role in the formation of the Ku Klux Klan was on Rep. Benton’s mind as well. The Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order,” he said. “It made a lot of people straighten up,” he continued. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”

In opposition to Fort’s bill, Rep. Benton has introduced two bills, one to protect the Stone Mountain carving, and the other to restore the Confederate holidays to the state calendar. You may recall that Governor Deal removed Confederate Memorial Day and Robert E Lee’s birthday from the calendar last year.

Senator Fort for his part, seemed inclined to let it alone. “For him to degenerate into that kind of name calling is beneath a response from me,” Fort, D-Atlanta, said.

This is gonna be one heck of a laser show.

It’s Election Day for HD58, and it’s getting turnt

`It may not be a Sunday surprise given that it’s Monday, but a new Facebook page attacking one of the candidates in the special election to replace Rep. Simone Bell popped up recently.

“The Real Ralph Long” on Facebook highlights a text exchange between former Rep. Ralph Long and a friend where Ralph apparently lays out his plans to only stay in the legislative seat for a year before he resigns to run for Atlanta City Council. After checking we see that Ralph is in longtime Democratic incumbent Joyce Shepherd’s Atlanta City Council district.

Long is running against political newcomer and reproductive justice advocate Park Cannon and Kwame Thompson, a Mayor Reed appointee.

Long says he won’t stay in the state seat “any longer than he has to” and explicitly stated he had a 2017 city council run already planned out.

In my experience, voters aren’t thrilled about the idea of offices being a mere stepping stone to other ones (at least this quickly), so this may come back to bite him.

See the exchange for yourself here:

So you want to know who’s going to win HD58?

One of the best ways to judge strength of candidates before an election is by the amount of money they are able to raise. Not only does it imply the quality and level of campaign they will be able to run, but it is a good measure of the success they will have when they begin communicating with voters. That’s because giving money is way more painful than voting, so if you can convince someone to do that, voters will likely follow.

Just in case you forgot, HD58 is the Democratic-leaning seat that was held be Simone Bell before she resigned in November. The election is a week away, so let’s check in on the three contenders.

Park Cannon leads the way with $17,843 raised. Kwame Thompson lags far behind at $3,875, and Ralph Long didn’t even file a report. The fine for that is $250, so I guess we can mark him down in the negative. Shocked? Don’t be, he’s been fined 17 times before. In fact, he’s been fined a total of $1,425, which is almost impressive.

So if you are going to handicap this race based on all the information we have now, it appears all bets are on Cannon. Except if you are betting on who will accrue the most ethics fines, in that race the smart money is on Long.